LIVE! East Lansing

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Keith Appling led a pivotal run early in the second half and finished with 24 points and seven assists to help No. 13 Michigan State beat Illinois 80-75 on Thursday night.

The Spartans (18-4, 7-2 Big Ten) scored the first 14 points of the second half to take their first lead.

The Illini (15-7, 2-6) lost for the fifth time in six games. They had a chance to be the first team with four wins over currently ranked teams.

Illinois started strong and responded to rallies with shots and stops in the first half. Michigan State played with a lot of energy in the second half.

Appling alternated making shots and setting up teammates to score in helping turn a 10-point deficit into a 41-37 lead.

The Spartans started the game without senior center Derrick Nix, finished it without sophomore guard Travis Trice and played much of the second half without freshman guard Gary Harris.

Nix didn’t start because coach Tom Izzo said the captain missed some academic appointments. He entered the game midway through the first half and finished with eight points. Trice, a key guard off the bench, was limited to 11 minutes in the first half because of a blow he took to the head on a shot attempt. Trice missed five games after breaking his nose and getting a concussion in the season-opening loss to Connecticut.

Harris, a starter, went to the locker room midway through the second half with back spasms and returned to the bench, but not the game.

Harris had 14 points, fellow freshman Denzel Valentine also scored 14, Braden Dawson had 12 points and nine rebounds and Adreian Payne added eight points, including a dunk off an alley-oop pass with 1:45 left to put the Spartans up 72-67.

Appling’s spinning, scooping layup put them ahead by six points with 45 seconds remaining to essentially seal the victory that kept Michigan State undefeated at home this season. Appling bounced back from a three-point, no-assist, five-foul performance Sunday in a five-point loss at Indiana.

Tracy Abrams scored 16 points, D.J. Richardson had 14, Brandon Paul 13 and reserve Myke Henry chipped in with 11.

The Spartans led by eight points midway through the second half, but couldn’t put away a team that has been talented enough to beat some of the top teams in college basketball.

Illinois has beaten No. 7 Gonzaga by 11 points, No. 9 Butler by 17 and No. 11 Ohio State by 19 points. Since beating the Buckeyes on Jan. 5, the Illini lost lopsided games to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan with their only win during the slump coming against 11th-place Nebraska.

Making five 3-pointers and having only one turnover helped the Illini lead 37-27 at halftime.

After struggling to keep possession of the ball early in the second half against aggressive defense, Abrams made some 3-pointers to keep Illinois within a possession of tying the game, including one with 5:39 left that made the score 63-60.

Early in the game, the Spartans looked rusty playing after a three-day break and Illinois seemed fired up to play.

Michigan State got off to an awful start with four turnovers on its first four possessions, leading to the Illini taking an 8-0 lead.

The second half was much different thanks in large part to Appling who had five points and one assist in the first half. — AP

ILLINOIS (15-7)
McLaurin 3-3 1-2 7, Richardson 4-12 3-4 14, Paul 5-10 1-2 13, Abrams 4-12 6-6 16, Egwu 3-9 0-0 6, Bertrand 3-7 0-0 6, LaTulip 0-0 0-0 0, Henry 4-6 1-1 11, Griffey 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 27-60 12-15 75.
MICHIGAN ST. (18-4)
Gauna 0-1 0-0 0, Payne 3-6 1-2 8, Appling 7-12 8-12 24, Harris 5-7 1-3 14, Dawson 4-5 4-4 12, Byrd 0-0 0-0 0, Costello 0-1 0-0 0, Trice 0-2 0-1 0, Nix 2-4 4-4 8, Valentine 4-4 6-8 14. Totals 25-42 24-34 80.
Halftime—Illinois 37-27. 3-Point Goals—Illinois 9-25 (Richardson 3-8, Henry 2-4, Paul 2-6, Abrams 2-6, Bertrand 0-1), Michigan St. 6-14 (Harris 3-5, Appling 2-4, Payne 1-3, Trice 0-1, Dawson 0-1). Fouled Out—Egwu. Rebounds—Illinois 24 (Abrams 5), Michigan St. 33 (Dawson 9). Assists—Illinois 12 (Abrams 6), Michigan St. 15 (Appling 7). Total Fouls—Illinois 26, Michigan St. 15. A—14,797.

No. 13 Michigan State 51, Illinois 45 — 11:33 second half

Remember when Illinois was up by 10 at the half? Yeah, neither does anyone here. This place is up for grabs.

Unforced Brandon Paul turnover on first possession led to a MSU pick-two.

After MSU went on a quick 4-0 run to start the half, Groce called a timeout and went absolutely nuts in the huddle.

Paul made another turnover after the timeout.

Michigan State came out more physical and with more energy to start the second half. The crowd really got into it, too.

Illinois started the game on an 8-0 run. Michigan State started the second half on a 14-0 run to take a four-point lead before D.J. Richardson buried three free throws after getting fouled on a three.

“Damn, he’s good,” an MSU student said of Richardson.

Scirotto and Abrams had a nice demonstration session when the teams came back after halftime about the finer points of playing defense on the perimeter without fouling. They were bumping one another, but it was all in the spirit of teaching.

The MSU fans are all over Mike Eades during timeouts. They say he looks like Bo Ryan, accuse him of being from Chicago and Ohio State at the same time.

The like Ed Hightower, who’s actually from Illinois. Not sure they know that.

Nnanna Egwu was smiling on the Illinois bench after he limped off the floor.

Brandon Paul is good at selling contact when he’s going to the basket. Might have baited Eades into a call at the 14:41 mark.

The final score last year was 42-41 Illinois in Champaign. We’ve already scored more points here tonight.

Joseph Bertrand’s floater six minutes into the half was Illinois’ first field goal.

Good foul by Brandon Paul blocking Gary Harris’ breakaway dunk. He missed both free throws.

Illinois 37, No. 13 Michigan State 27 — Halftime

Nice take to the bucket and finish from D.J. Richardson while drawing a foul midway through the half.

It’s going to be tough to finish inside against these guys, but that was nice. Early in the game, an Illinois guard, I forget who, took the ball to the bucket and it looked like the shot was blocked by three Spartans.

Nnanna Egwu got into some foul trouble. Two fouls about 11 minutes in.

Myke Henry checked in and made a heck of a defensive play, getting a deflection off Payne, resulting in another MSU turnover. That’s the kind of stuff that will earn him more minutes.

He followed up with a three-pointer. That helps, too, though it’s just icing.

MSU students calling Sam McLaurin “McLovin”.

Tracy Abrams has been wide open a couple times tonight from deep, but can’t get one to fall.

Tracy Abrams abused Russell Byrd off the dribble for a left-handed layup. Byrd is struggling with his shot and apparently defending, too.

“He’s getting handsy, ref, that’s a sexual lawsuit waiting to happen.” — MSU student about the Illinois pressure defense.

Larry Scirotto and Tracy Abrams had a discussion late in the half during a timeout about using hands on defense. It was cordial.

D.J. took a quick three late in the half. Probably should have held it. There was a five-second differential between game and shot clock.

Regardless, great half for Illinois.

Myke Henry was the star. The sophomore had eight points, a block, a steal and a rebound. He’s playing his butt off.

Richardson also had eight for Illinois. Everyone except for Mike LaTulip has scored.

Illinois shot 48.5 percent (16 for 33) from the floor and 5 for 14 (35.7 percent) from long range.

Tracy Abrams leads with four rebounds.

Nnanna Egwu sat the last nine minutes of the half with two fouls. Myke Henry’s production allowed for that.

Illinois is 13-1 when leading at the half. The Purdue game is the one they lost.

MSU was 11 for 26 (42.3 percent) from the floor and 4 for 11 (36.4 percent) from long range.

Gary Harris’ nine points lead the Spartans, who committed nine turnovers. Illinois had one.

Illinois 16, No. 13 Michigan State 13 — 10:38 first half

Alex Gauna starting instead of Nix was a bit of a surprise.

I'm told Nix had an academic issue.

Branden Dawson, being guarded by Brandon Paul, tried to drive at the end of the shot clock. He turned it over and the MSU students yelled “Stop dribbling, Branden!” He turned it over again the next possession.

“Turn the lights off and end it now,” Loren said when Illinois forced four turnovers in four possessions and got out to an 8-0 lead.

The official I don’t know yelled at Griffey to keep his legs straight and off the MSU player on a free throw blockout.

The Izzone sang Happy Birthday to Tom Izzo during the first media timeout. The Michigan State coach turned 58 yesterday.

Official Larry Scirotto and John Groce chatted one another up in a friendly exchange before the tip. You’ll remember those two got into a face-to-face discussion during the Ohio State game a few weeks ago at the Assembly Hall. I think they go way back.

Tyler Griffey passed up a three-point look, took a couple dribbles and drilled a contested midrange jumper. He needed that to fall. Might help his confidence on the next three-pointer.

Groce got all over Joesph Bertrand when Denzel Valentine delivered an alley-oop pass to Adriean Payne in transition.

They played R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” during the timeout while showing the replay of that. The Izzone sang along with it.

They also chant “We’re not Penn State” during that Zombie Nation song.

Brandon Paul came to play tonight.

Michigan State is being generous. Spartans have turned it over six times so far.

Mike LaTulip checking in for the Illini at the under-12 timeout. He’s got a bit of a black eye.

Derrick Nix hasn't played yet for MSU.

Illinois (15-6, 2-5) at No. 13 Michigan State (17-4, 6-2) — Tipoff (ESPN)

Just walked past Sparty in the tunnel on the way out to the floor. He’s got a lot of energy. Not nearly as strong as he looks. I think Loren could take him.

No surprises in the starting lineup for the Illini.

For the fourth straight game, Illinois will go with Tracy Abrams, D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul, Sam McLaurin and Nnanna Egwu.

The Spartans go with Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Branden Dawson, Alex Gauna and Adriean Payne.

Paul and Richardson did that thing where they shoot halfcourt shots when the rest of the team heads into the locker room. One or both of them usually makes one. I feel like they were baiting the Izzone to talk trash to them. They weren’t even close on the first six each of them took. Just as the “Airball” chants started, Richardson drained one.

We’re seated right in front of some MSU students and the band (It’s LOUD!) One guy said “I’m scared of these guys (Illinois). If they have a good-shooting game, they’re really tough to beat.”

He’s right, but they haven’t had a good-shooting night in quite some time.

Walked past two 6-year-old boys in the tunnel. The MSU dance team was walking in front of me. The two boys did a serious stare down of the ladies and topped it off with a smile. Future lady killers.

Lots of students here dressed as chickens or just wearing the heads of chicken costumes. Not sure what that’s all about.

Ed Hightower, Larry Scirotto and a gentleman with whom I'm not yet familiar are your officials.

It’s game time, hoot!

Illinois (15-6, 2-5) at No. 13 Michigan State (17-4, 6-2) — 30 minutes before tipoff

The rest of the fans are starting to trickle in here to the Breslin Center. Early tip, so it might be a bit of a late-arriving crowd.

The weather isn’t real nice out there, so that might slow the folks down.

I see Mike LaTulip’s dad making his way to his seat. He probably hit some of that bad weather we did. It was a whiteout for a while.

The Illinois contingent of fans, which right now consists only of Mr. LaTulip, is seated right nin front of the Izzone students. I’m sure that will be a treat.

By the way, Michigan State’s support staff is among the best in the Big Ten, maybe the country. Always a treat to come here.

The Illini received a hearty chorus of boos upon running onto the floor a few minutes ago.

“Brandon Paul sucks!” is a very popular chant. In comparison to Indiana, they keep it pretty PG.

The song “Dancing Queen” played over the speakers when the Illini took the court.

I know Devin Langford is a good dancer, maybe that was their way of welcoming him to East Lansing?

Maverick Morgan told me today that he’s averaging about 25 points and 10 rebounds at Springboro (Ohio) High just outside of Dayton.

Springboro’s enrollment is close to 1,600 and they’re in the biggest division of Ohio high schools. It’s one of the biggest schools in the area.

Morgan says he’s up to 6-11 and 255 pounds. He likes to score out of the post.

“I post up a lot, that’s how I score most of my points,” he said. “I try to use the midrange game some, but I post a lot. I like having my back to the basket.”

We’ll have more from Morgan in tomorrow’s News-Gazette and on IlliniHQ.com.

Michigan State is back on the floor. Derrick Nix’s pants didn’t make it to the first layup. The big fella needs to let the legs breathe.

These guys are big. They’re big and mean-looking.

We’ll be back at the tip.

Illinois (15-6, 2-5) at No. 13 Michigan State (17-4, 6-2) — 60 minutes before tipoff

The doors are open here at the Breslin Center and the students who make up the Izzone student section are making their way down to the seats. Always an entertaining bunch.

Russell Byrd, who’s in a nasty shooting slump for the Spartans, just took the floor long after his teammates and got a big, long smooch on the cheek from a woman I’m assuming is his mother. Byrd is from Fort Wayne, Ind.

The Illini are out here now, too. Tyler Griffey was the first guy out and he hit a bunch of shots.

The rest of the team joined him shortly after. The Illini will wear blue tonight.

Executive senior associate director of athletics Jason Lener joined us on the pregame show. He told us off the air that he went to a conference earlier in the week to talk about concussions in sports and there were so many different doctors with all these fancy titles, he couldn’t pronounce their titles.

Illinois coach John Groce walked out a minute ago with a Starbucks cup in one hand. He says he’s down to a cup a day.

The Michigan State players are putting on a dunk exhibition right now and the Izzone loves it. Gary Harris is a crowd favorite. Payne gets up really well for a big man.

Got an update yesterday on transfer Rayvonte Rice. The 6-foot-4 guard can’t travel with the Illini, so he’s back home in Champaign working on his game.

The Centennial product has dropped about 30 pounds since he arrived at Illinois. He had to give up mom’s home cooking. Not easy to do when you’re playing ball in your hometown.

Payne just sent the Spartans into the locker room with a nasty dunk that got the Izzone even more riled up than they already were.

We’ll be back.

Illinois (15-6, 2-5) at No. 13 Michigan State (17-4, 6-2) — 90 minutes before tipoff

Good evening, welcome to another Illinois basketball report from inside the beautiful Breslin Center at Michigan State.

Think the Illini can win here tonight? Well, I picked against them, so that normally bodes well for your team.

Drove up to East Lansing this morning/afternoon with Loren Tate. He's a good passenger.

Nasty weather on the way up here, as always. I have a very smart friend who feels like we should kick Michigan out of the U.S. and give it to Canada. Every time I drive up here, there are serious weather issues. I’m not against that idea so much anymore.

We saw a nasty wreck involving at least three automobiles and a semi. All the vehicles were totaled and hopefully there were no grave injuries, though I’m afraid that might not be the case.

On the trip up, I spoke with Illinois signee Maverick Morgan, the 6-foot-10 big man from Ohio, who's putting together a heck of a senior season.

I’ll share a little bit of what Morgan talked about later on.

Word on the Internet earlier today was that JaQuan, the 6-foot-4 point guard from Evansville, who visited Illinois over the weekend, had narrowed his list to Louisville and Illinois and might make a decision within the next couple of weeks.

Turns out that’s not the case.

We caught up with Lyle’s coach Shane Burkhart today and he shot down those rumors.

“None of it’s true. He had a great trip to Illinois, but nothing has changed,” Burkhart said.

The five-star recruit in the Class of 2014 made his first visit to Illinois over the weekend for the game against Michigan. He spent time with John Groce and the coaching staff before the game and hung out with another 2014 target, Springfield’s Larry Austin Jr.

Here’s the complete story on Lyle.

Just got out to the Breslin Center court. Adriean Payne was the first Spartan out here, working on his midrange game.

An NBA scout recently told me Payne will be a better pro than Tyson Chandler, especially on the offensive end. Izzo and Payne have butted heads quite a bit during the junior’s time here and that’s part of the reason he isn’t as nationally known as he probably should be.

Payne and teammate/roommate Branden Dawson got into a fight in a hotel at Penn State a couple of weeks ago. The cops had to be called.

Izzo didn’t start them against the Nittany Lions, but they appear to be fine now.

They were just chatting one another up out here a minute ago. Payne’s shiner appears to be fading. Derrick Nix is also out here. The three dynamic MSU big men are the only Spartans out here, so far.

No sign of the Illini yet. I’m jumping on the pregame show with Loren and Steve Kelly. Be back soon with another update.

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